Chiastic Structure

2:36 PM

I'm currently finishing up a 10 week study of the Book of Esther. It's a Beth Moore study, and I have yet to work through a Beth Moore study I did not just thoroughly enjoy. I love her studies because they require daily Bible study, offer fresh insight and prompt introspection. I also love her lectures which are invigorating, hilarious, thought-provoking and stimulating. I love never knowing what outfit she'll wear next - and in what new way she can embellish her clothing! I love checking out her heels which I usually adore! I love how her drawl thickens when she starts talking hair and makeup. I love her just outright PASSION for Jesus Christ and his Father. And I have yet to do a study of hers that hasn't also made me fall more in love with my Savior and just marvel even more at the mysteries He's hidden throughout His word. Studying the Bible - the words of my God - is the very epitome of realizing how much more you have yet to discover. The more you know, the more you realize how little you actually DO know. Does that make sense? In the words of Beth Moore, "Am I speaking to anyone out there?"

One lecture in particular of this Esther study just THRILLED me. I love to think, love to be driven to think deeper, love to investigate and explore the hidden depths of the Bible. And just when you think you've gotten a pretty good handle on what is inside the pages of the Bible (which of course is just delusional anyway), the Lord lifts the eye flaps up and reveals something to you that just blows you away. Session Six of Esther was such an experience for me.

The topic of discussion was chapter six of Esther which is the point at which the story reverses direction. And then Beth paused a moment to reflect on something that you usually don't do while studying the Bible - the actual literary construction of the book. Essentially, the Book of Esther is crafted in such a way that 1) it never actually mentions God, yet 2) clearly reveals God's handiwork and 3) cleverly illustrates a literary tool that is actually used many times in the Bible and most importantly - is used in an ESSENTIAL way by God.

The literary construct used is a Chiastic Structure. Which means inverted parallelism - a reversal of structures to emphasize a point. For example, "don't live to eat, eat to live." Back to back phrases which are mirror images of each other- the second phrase saying the opposite of the first phrase. The first phrase is exactly the flip of the second - hereby driving the point home. A Biblical example: "Don't be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good - Romans 12:21" Also, I just noticed and find incredibly interesting that 12:21 is essentially a chiastic structure of its own!!!!! The very reference numbers are mirror images..ok, getting too deep here.

Beth also pointed out that the root word of "chiastic" is "chi" - the Greek letter of the alphabet represented by an X. And what happens if you draw a line through an X? - it's a mirror image of itself, either way you slice it.

Another example: "He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God." 2 Cor. 5:21

Him = No sin Us=Sin
- -
- -
- -
- -
- -
- -
- - -
Him= Sin Us= Righteousness of God

As the X shape folds over, its opposites drives the point home.

In Esther, events are what are used as chiastic structures: namely, feasts. Early in the book, there are two feasts of nobility that involve Xerxes and his queen, Vashti...later in the book, in a reversal of fortune or mirror image, there are two more feasts of nobility, this time involving Esther and Mordecai. I could go on.

So throughout the book, these reversals of fortune take place - and using the example above of 2 Cor. 5:21, clearly our fortunes are reversed. We go from being sinners to being the righteousness of God. Another interesting literary tool is the point at which the destiny reverses - the pivot point: it's called a peripety. It's literally the hinge that allows the course to reverse.

What blew me away was how God buried these same chiastic structures into the Bible from the beginning (Old Testament) to the end (New Testament). Jesus was discussed in Isaiah 53:2-5 as being despised and rejected by men, bearing our sorrows, wounded for our sins, smitten of God, afflicted (all because of 2 Cor. 5:21 where God allowed Jesus who knew no sin to become sin for us...) and then at the very end of the Bible, in Revelation 19:11-16, the destiny has dramatically changed - completely reversed: heaven opens up and there sits Jesus, called Faithful and True, followed by an army of heavenly hosts on white horses, KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. No longer rejected by God, no longer bearing our sorrows.

But where was the shift? The reversal point? The peripety? Every reversal of fortune has one....Jesus's is found in John 20:1-15: When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus and found it empty. Because He had risen. Death had been defeated.

Hallelujah!!! I hope I haven't thoroughly confused every hapless reader who may have straggled across this page...I probably lost some at the post title. But for those who persevered and hung on to this end, is it not incredible that something as old as the Bible, written by so many different men across the ages, carries through it not only many different incidents of chiastic structures, but essentially carries one gigantic one through its pages, like a long single thread tying it all together and completing it.

And it is the singular reversal of fortune, reversal of destinies: Salvation for the Lost. Christ's life for ours. Death for Life. Purity for Sin. We who have no hope in ourselves....finding the one source of hope.

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  1. I too just finished a study on Esther, but after reading this post, I think I need to go back through it with Mrs. Moore! Thank you for your insights! You're such a reminder to those like me who sometimes feel stagnant and all too comfortable in this faith believing that we know "enough" that there is no such thing and that the Bible is a living, breathing thing.

  2. Have you seen Julie and Julia yet?!? I thought of you instantly when I saw the first preview! I'm trying to convince Paul to take me but I might be seeing it on my own. Wish we could go together!

  3. Hey Anne! Haven't seen it yet, but I have read the book! Kyle actually got me the book months ago, knowing my love of cooking and Julia Child. This is not usually the case, but in THIS case, I was really excited they were making a movie out of this one! I love their use of Meryl Streep for Julia Child! Can't wait to see it, actually! I love you!!!